We were headed down to Atlanta to have lunch with friends and decided to take a little extra time touring since we hadn’t been out in a while. As it turned out our visit was perfectly timed with the monthly opening of Scott’s Antique Market so after lunch we drove over to see what treasures we might discover.
“Vast monthly market with vendors offering heirloom furniture & antiques, collectibles & knickknacks” is how Scott’s describes themselves on their website and “Vast” is an apt descriptor. Scott’s fills the two Atlanta Expo Centers with vendors and goods for four days each month. It is worth the $5 admission fee just to see the variety of goods being offered. Parking is free, but remember to hold on to your ticket stub because you will need it to enter the parking lot at the second Expo Center on the other side of the freeway.
First-time visitors might like to walk a bit to get oriented, but make note of the location of any vendors you may want to revisit so you can find your way back easily.
Antiques, art, silver service, china and jewelry…smaller sized goods are more on the right-hand side of the building. Large pieces an furniture are more to the left, but throughout you’ll find interesting pieces from fine art to fun and funky.
Many of the vendors are regulars so it is a good time to catch up with old friends. I was happy to run into a Florida-based dealer we know from shows in Brimfield, MA. He deals in fine jewelry and high-end decorative pieces and brings his sweet sixteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier to all the shows. She is always dressed in high fashion.
Now we are approaching the left side of the building where it is like Disneyland for anyone looking for furniture and rugs…
…and remember that this in only half of what we have come to see…more awaits on the south side of the freeway.
Before we go inside, we like to take a look at the offerings in the open lot outdoor. I was especially taken with these colorful portable chicken coops. There are always beautiful seasonal plants for sale and this is a good place to look for architectural salvage pieces.
Again, here in the annex there is a lot of space to cover and an amazing assortment of goods on display from rare books and coins to vintage autos.
After all this walking you may be wondering what we came home with…
I found a vintage Cherokee basket in perfect condition. This obviously older basket is well constructed with a lovely interplay of natural colors and a bentwood handle notch-fitted on the underside. Basket in hand, it was time for us to leave if we were still going to see Stone Mountain this afternoon.
Stone Mountain is an enormous, smooth gray granite monolith that rises over 800 feet above everything in the surrounding area. It was Creek Indian land until the 1821 Treaty of Indian Springs opened the area for new settlers. European explorers and fur trappers had already been through this area and by the early 1820s there was an inn hosting visitors to the mountain. Newly developed stagecoach lines brought more travelers, and by the mid-1840s rail service was established and even more people came to view this natural wonder (Stone Mountain, Georgia, Wikipedia).
The city of Stone Mountain rings the mountain itself and is about twenty miles northeast of Atlanta. The business district and residential area is often called Stone Mountain Village to differentiate it from what has become Stone Mountain Park. Although this area voted against secession prior to the Civil War, it was not spared when Union troops, under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman, arrived for the Battle of Atlanta (1864). The antebellum homes that were being used as hospitals were spared, but the rest of the town was destroyed. In the Village, the train depot roof burned but the thick stone walls remained standing. Later that year, thousands of Union troops returned and tore up the railroad tracks. “The rails were rendered useless by heating them over burning railroad ties, then twisting them around trees. The term Sherman’s neckties was coined for this form of destruction” (Wikipedia).
Quarrying had long been the major industry in the area and during the Reconstruction Era, the demand for granite across the country quickly reignited the quarry operations, which continued up until the late 1970s.
In 1912, Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), came up with a new idea for the mountain. As the Stone Mountain Park website tells the story she envisioned an enormous carving on its surface with three figures: Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. At that time, the mountain was owned by the Venable family. The family deeded the face of the mountain over to the UDC with the stipulation that the work be completed by 1928.
Gutzon Borglum, who later gained fame for the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore, envisioned the piece to be of a large army of soldiers with several mounted figures. Funding problems and WWI slowed progress and he couldn’t begin dynamite blasting until 1923. By January 1924 he had Lee’s head completed, and after a dispute in 1925, he walked off the job. Augustus Lukeman and his crew took up the work using pneumatic drills and cleared all earlier work. They began on a less expansive design, but by the 1928 deadline Lee’s new head was the only area that was completed and the project was out of funding. “The Venable family reclaimed their property, and the massive granite mountain remained untouched for 36 years.” [Note: This and all subsequent quotes are taken from the Stone Mountain Park website.]
In 1958, Stone Mountain and the surrounding land were purchased by the State of Georgia and an arts committee held a competition for yet another design for the mountain. Massachusetts artist Walker Kirkland Hancock’s drawings were selected and carving resumed in 1964…this time with a new technique utilizing thermo-jet torches. The torches were much more effective and in eight years the work, as it stands today, was completed. The carving is actually much larger and more detailed than it appears to park visitors. “Eyebrows, fingers, buckles and even strands of hair were fine-carved with a small thermo-jet torch. Workers could easily stand on a horse’s ear or inside a horse’s mouth to escape a sudden rain shower.” The sculpture was dedicated on May 9, 1970. “The carving takes up three acres on the surface of the mountain and is larger than a football field. The carving is 400 feet above the ground and measures 90 by 190 feet.
But on our visit to the park, we noticed that we were almost the only people who had come to see the carving on the mountain. As we drove on the on-way road around the circumference of the mountain, we were happy to see the number of people walking, jogging, and bicycling through the beautiful wooded terrain. We quickly learned that there is much to enjoy at Stone Mountain that has nothing to do with the now controversial Confederate carving.
The mountain is surrounded on three sides by lakes. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available for rental, and fishing is allowed if you have a Georgia fishing license. The century-old wooden Washington W. King Bridge was originally built in Athens and was moved to this location in 1969 after the Oconee River’s flooding began damaging the structure. In its new site, it allows vehicles and pedestrians to cross Stone Mountain Lake to a picturesque island. The structure was designed and built by Washington W. King in 1891. According to the park brochure, “The King family were prominent African-American businessmen for decades in multiple Georgia cities.”
This “covered bridge” or “lattice style” bridge was common in the in the nineteenth century. It is interesting to note that heavy wood pegs were used in the construction. “Bridges like this were refuge for travelers during storms, courting couples and robbers who hid themselves on the overhead timbers and dropped down on the unsuspecting victim.”
A little further along the route there is a 100-year-old grist mill that was moved to the park from Ellinjay, Georgia, and a quarry exhibit that describes the quarrying process at the mountain. Granite from this quarry was used in buildings of every state across the nation and was shipped to construction projects around the world, including the Panama Canal.
Park visitors can also enjoy a daily concert played on the 732-bell Carillion that was donated to the park by the Coca-Cola Company after it was exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.
While early visitors had to walk up the strenuous one-mile trail to stand on the summit, now with the purchase of a ticket, a cable car ride takes people up past the sculpture to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view.
There are fifteen miles of trails throughout the park with varying degrees of difficulty. The Songbird Habitat and Trail is in the area that was used for the archery and cycling events in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The area is filled with native plant life that makes it a good place to watch for songbirds and other regional species.
If you are going to be in the area for any time or returning within the year, you may want to consider a $40 parking pass that will allow no-cost return visits…otherwise there is a $20 one-time charge to drive into the park. If you have the time and are feeling particularly energetic, you can walk into the park with no admission fee, but to do this you will have to park in the Village and walk from there since there is NO parking on residential streets in the area.
We could have spent more time really exploring Stone Mountain Park, but the sun was getting low and we still had a quite a drive if we were going to get to Athens, Georgia, before dark.